Category Archives: Friendship

When a Loved One Hurts You

Last night, my pastor delivered one of the greatest messages I have ever heard him preach. It was from 2 Kings 4:1-7:

Now there cried a certain woman of the wives of the sons of the prophets unto Elisha, saying, Thy servant my husband is dead; and thou knowest that thy servant did fear the Lord: and the creditor is come to take unto him my two sons to be bondmen.

And Elisha said unto her, What shall I do for thee? tell me, what hast thou in the house? And she said, Thine handmaid hath not any thing in the house, save a pot of oil.

Then he said, Go, borrow thee vessels abroad of all thy neighbours, even empty vessels; borrow not a few.

And when thou art come in, thou shalt shut the door upon thee and upon thy sons, and shalt pour out into all those vessels, and thou shalt set aside that which is full.

So she went from him, and shut the door upon her and upon her sons, who brought the vessels to her; and she poured out.

And it came to pass, when the vessels were full, that she said unto her son, Bring me yet a vessel. And he said unto her, There is not a vessel more. And the oil stayed.

Then she came and told the man of God. And he said, Go, sell the oil, and pay thy debt, and live thou and thy children of the rest.

My pastor went on to say that oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. We are anointed by the Holy Spirit, just as they anointed kings of Israel with oil.

The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed…(Luke 4:18)

Oil was all she had left in the house, but it was the only thing she needed. Just as the Holy Spirit is the only thing we need to sustain us. The empty vessels represent other people in our lives. And here is the gist of the message: it doesn’t matter how many people you pour yourself out to. You will never run out of the Holy Spirit in your life. There will always be enough left over for you.

I have a few friends that are pastors or other types of ministers. I was thinking today about how difficult it must be to be heavily depended on by so many lives. What a burden to feel responsible for everyone’s relationship with God. What a weight to know that your life is a witness to others, that they are looking at you to see if they can find true Christianity. To some extent, every Christian lives under a microscope, but pastors and their families bear the greatest burdens. These people, who are constantly pouring themselves out, constantly sacrificing their time, their sweat, their finances, and their emotions, are taking a great risk by loving the rest of us. I have discovered, over the course of my life, that those who are closest to us have the greatest opportunity to cause us grief. I cannot even think of a good enough term to describe how we make them feel sometimes. Turmoil, vexation, sorrow? None of those words seem adequate.

So tonight, I want to encourage you if you have been hurt by someone you love. My heart especially goes out to those who have made it their life’s work to minister to others, but the rest of us are affected sometimes too. The fact is, people, self-proclaimed Christians, hurt each other sometimes. When someone hurts me, I have learned to compare where they are right now to who I was nine years ago. I was living in a back-slidden condition then, purposefully sinning, and putting my entire family at risk. Yet I was still me. I was still under the grace and protection of God, and He was still working in my life. Not through me perhaps, because I had made myself unavailable to Him, but rather working on my behalf.

So if there is someone in your life that has hurt you deeply and has behaved unseemly toward you, perhaps they are not hypocrites after all – the first conclusion we want to jump to – but a work in progress. Perhaps this is a phase, and God is going to create something beautiful in their lives. I think that God not only looks at the whole person, but at the whole span of a person’s life.

One of my long-standing prayers has been to see people through God’s eyes. Now, some of us get really good at seeing unbelievers and new believers like that (hence the patience and call to deal with drug addicts, etc.). These are people who we view as needing our help. We look at them, and visualize a beautiful future for them, saved from the depths of despair by the majesty of God’s grace. In a way, I think we sometimes self-worship, and believe that it is due to something good in us that brings these folks to God. I think that’s why it is so easy for us to “help” them. Because we get some pleasure out of it and perhaps a pat on the back. That’s how I feel sometimes, even though in reality I know I am nothing, but a hopeless sinner saved by the grace of God. (Only I can know and understand the depths of my own depravity.)

But it’s 100x harder to see “mature” believers through God’s eyes. Especially if they are hurting us, or if they are in the process of indulging in sin. I’m not saying that I’m completely immune to having my feelings hurt by others, but if I can believe that these people are just short-sighted at the moment and are destined for awesomeness (I think of Paul’s conversion and ministry), then it is easier for me to find peace. And I hope that when I sin against others (and believe me, it will happen), they can extend the same grace to me. I hope they can look into my future and envision a time when I am no longer at odds with them, and a time when my sin no longer dictates my words and actions.

Wednesday evening at church, we all shared our favorite verses with each other. This is my favorite (Job 23:8-9):

Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him:

On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him:

I believe this means that He is always working in our behalf, even when He seems completely absent. So every negative comment, every health struggle, every relationship issue, – it is all a gift from God to form us into the people He is perfecting. Romans 8:28 says:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

Embrace it, believe it, make decisions based on it, treat others by it, live it.

The verse following my favorite passage (Job 23:10) says this:

But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.

Again, he is looking at the whole person. He knows your way – your life, your destiny. You can be at peace with everything that happens to you. But keep in mind that this verse also applies to every other Christian on the face of the planet. He is molding them, using their own situations and shortcomings to teach them.

I want to leave you with this, the favorite verse of one of my brothers in Christ. When he spoke the words Wednesday night, it immediately struck a chord deep inside of me (Psalm 119:165):

Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them.

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Planning for Spontaneity

DriveEleven, twelve, thirteen years ago, before my son was born, my husband and I used to drive and drive. And drive. Sometimes we would spend hours in the car, going basically nowhere. Once in a great while we would end up a few towns over. I remember once, when we were about an hour or so away, we looked at the clock and said, “Hmmmm…we could have been in Memphis by now if we’d driven straight there.” We had been driving for five hours that day, just for fun. So today, we’ve arranged for a babysitter, and we’re off! Nothing to do today but drive. Where will we end up? No idea. No plans at all, except to have fun, enjoy each other’s company, and relive the nostalgia of going for a drive.

Post from the Past: The Worst Advice

When I find myself thrown into a conversation with someone who is really struggling, my first goal is to say nothing that can harm them. The worst advice I could give them would be to encourage them to act in a way that will only make their situation worse. Oftentimes, though, this is the advice they expect to hear. It is the advice that our culture would naturally give. For instance, if your best friend is struggling in her marriage, she may expect you to “support” her by advising her to “put him in his place.” She may want you to validate the choices that she has been making because her husband deserves to be treated like a child. He is, after all, making her miserable and turning her into a sour person. When, really, the correct advice would be the opposite. Your best friend can’t expect to be able to change her husband. The only person she can change is herself. The more she tries to force her husband to change, the worse her situation will become.

God doesn’t put people into situations in which there are no right choices. There is always a right choice, even if that choice goes against our worldly reasoning. He doesn’t put wives into situations in which they cannot serve Him fully because their husbands won’t behave properly. Another person cannot come between her and God’s will for her life. Only she can do that. Instead of waiting for her husband to come ‘round, or instead of constantly nagging her husband and telling him what horrible decisions he makes or how badly he treats her, she should focus her energy on making each right choice in her life as she comes to it. What is the godly thing to do in this moment? She should do it. Five minutes later…what is the godly choice now? She should choose it. Advise her to treat her husband with the respect that his office demands, serving God and others in the meantime.

If she truly submits to the will of her husband, and can treat him respectfully in love and without sarcasm, he will probably come ‘round eventually. If not, well, people have suffered worse for the cause of Christ. This life is merely temporary anyway, and every situation will come to an end eventually. I heard a pastor quote yesterday, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” It’s been tried, and it doesn’t work. Wives cannot force their husbands to change. They can merely do what is good and right on a consistent basis, and hope that their husbands “may without the word be won by the conversation [lifestyle] of the wives.” 1 Peter 3:1

Post from the Past: Good Conversation

Yesterday, I talked a little about making strangers feel comfortable. Sometimes, just talking a little can really help someone open up and feel at ease. If you are in a large group of people (at church especially), search out the person who looks the least comfortable or the most lonely, and strike up a good conversation with them.

What is a good conversation? Well, first of all, you want to pick a topic that the other person will be interested in. If crowds make you nervous too, say so! (I wouldn’t mention the fact that they look nervous, and that’s why you came to chat.) If you can find anything else in common with this person, talk about it. Think of your surroundings. Maybe you are at church or a seminar. What brought you there? What brought the other person there? If you don’t already know, ask. You probably already have something in common, as attested to by the mere fact that you are sharing the same space on the same day. If you just can’t think of anything, compliment jewelry or children – anything to get started. Talking about the weather is even acceptable, as long as you don’t leave it at that!

Try not to come across as superior. Maintain a humble attitude. Talk about your weaknesses (if you can do so without whining or complaining). Whatever you do, don’t one-up them! There are two ways to do that, by the way. You can either make your life look extremely better than theirs, or extremely worse. If you are truly concerned about the comfort level of the other person, you will steer clear of both extremes.

It’s difficult not to talk about our own children, cars, etc, especially if we are proud of them (or frustrated with them). But only mention your situation if it can help establish empathy for the other person. For instance, when people mention that their children aren’t doing well in school because they have a short attention span, I’ll say that my kid has a short attention span too. Sometimes I’ll add an illustration. I haven’t one-upped them; I’ve just established that I understand where they’re coming from. The last thing I would do is tell them that that’s one of the many reasons I homeschool, and then proceed to explain how well my kid is doing with his schoolwork. (I might, however, ask them if they have considered homeschooling. If they show an interest, I would of course answer any questions they might have. If they don’t show an interest, I wouldn’t push the benefits of homeschooling. Some people just aren’t in a position to homeschool, and others haven’t opened their minds to the idea. Just be friendly and humble.)

If you can be funny, go for it! Laughter is a great ice breaker. But more than finding the right responses, it’s important to just listen, as long as they feel like talking. If you can see that talking makes them even more uncomfortable, leave them alone, and find  someone else to chat with.

Post from the Past: Ego Booster

Teaching the homeschool choir has been challenging for me, especially learning how to handle the high school girls. One day, attitudes were running wild – one group of girls acting superior to the rest, and another group whispering and glancing snidely toward the first group. I finally had to stop the class and give a little lecture before I felt we could go any further.

During the odd years that I attended Christian school, I must have had the idea that everybody loved me because I was so quick to show off how much I knew. Think about it – that’s the way parents act when they brag about their kids to others or when they look at homework to see how good it is. In high school, I hadn’t realized yet that the rest of the world couldn’t care less. Looking back on it, I actually think everyone despised me. It took me a really long time to start thinking about the world in terms of others instead of myself.

So, I decided to be painfully honest with my choir girls. I told them how I cringe when I think about those days. I told them how I don’t want anything in my life that reminds me of that era. My husband picked out a nice pair of shoes at a shoe store the other day, and I liked them, but I didn’t buy them. Can you guess why? They were in the same style that I would have worn 17 years ago, and I didn’t want to remind myself of my teenage years every time I put them on. I am ashamed of myself for having flaunted my knowledge.

So after I embarrassed myself in front of my class, explaining why they would hate me today if I were their age now, we had a little talk about always striving to make others feel good and comfortable. It isn’t about who’s the smartest, most well-raised homeschooler in the building. If you have been homeschooled, you probably have the self-esteem to handle boosting someone else’s ego (sometimes at the expense of your own). Go out of your way to make the other person feel valued, like his opinion counts for something, instead of always assuming that everyone is interested in what you have to say or how much you know. Homeschoolers get used to needing to prove that they are better than public-schoolers, and we take this attitude into life with us. Not only is this attitude going to make friend-finding difficult for you, it could totally impede your ability to be a successful witness.

Here’s a tip if you are heading off to college: on the first day of class, get to each class early and find a seat. Make eye contact with people as they come through the door and smile. Look for people who look scared, and make an effort to make them feel more comfortable. I once moved my bag closer to myself (freeing up more space at my table in the process) after seeing a woman come through the classroom door, looking for an unintimidating place to sit. She took the gesture as intended, and sat with me for the entire semester. We are still friends on Facebook to this day, even though I haven’t seen her since that semester seven years ago.

In general, nobody else will care about you except for you, at least until you form a relationship with someone. Be one of the few people on this earth to place the comfort of a stranger above that of yourself, and you will find yourself surrounded by friends.

River’s Call

River’s Call by Melody Carson tells the story of Anna, as she struggles to overcome the difficult relationships in her life. For years she has borne the verbal abuse of her former mother-in-law, Eunice, and she is currently trying to resolve the wedge that Eunice has driven between herself and her own daughter, Lauren. Things become even stickier when Anna discovers that Lauren is pregnant, and does not intend to keep the baby.

This book was a little different than the other book I have read by Melody Carlson. Personally, I enjoyed the set-up of the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, and it was hard for me to make the switch to a more conventional method of storytelling, especially since I knew that it was written by the same author. The writing wasn’t bad, but it just wasn’t as much fun! That being said, the book is heart-felt, and brings to into question many modern relationship problems, along with potential ways to resolve them. I did not always agree with the protagonists’ opinions – I happen to think that Anna should have taken her daughter in hand rather than let her figure things out for herself, and the feminist views of Anna’s new, more desirable mother-in-law, Hazel, got under my skin a bit. I don’t mean to be critical though, because everything else about the book was good! I enjoyed spending time on the river with Anna and her friends, and I will most likely read the other books in the series.

If you want to find out more, check out the product page for this book. Or you can preview it here.

Note: In exchange for an honest review, the publisher provided a complimentary copy of this book through Glass Road Public Relations.

Post from the Past: Easy Recipes for a Dinner Party

Last week while I was typing, my six-year-old son asked me for an index card. Over the next couple of minutes, he lay in the floor of my office, writing away. I helped him spell most of the words, but I wasn’t paying attention to the content as a whole. By the time he asked me for an envelope and a stamp, I realized he had written an invitation to some of our friends. We mailed the letter, and as a result, I lay awake last night wracking my brain to come up with some nice, yet easy, dinner choices for tonight’s company.

Since I will be busy all day, I’ve decided to make two things that will be super easy, but they are still on my husband’s list of favorite things to eat. The main course is a four-ingredient lasagna. I used to hate making lasagna because it was so time consuming, and frankly, I can’t stand the sight of ricotta cheese! However, the ingredients I use are:

6 lasagna noodles, cooked

Half a block of Velveeta cheese (or something comparable), cut into quarter inch slices

1 lb. ground beef, cooked and drained

1 can or jar of spaghetti sauce

After cooking the noodles and beef, I make two layers of noodles, cheese, beef, and spaghetti sauce, in that order. I always save the majority of the ingredients for the top half, since that’s the half that everyone sees.  :) If you don’t mind a runny river of cheesy goodness, you can serve it immediately after baking. If you’re like me, however, you will want it to look as good as it tastes – in which case, let it cool for 45 minutes or so before serving.

My main side is a four-ingredient mashed potato concoction, thanks to my sister-in-love (engaged to my brother), Mandy, for the recipe!

8-12 small potatoes (I always save the big ones for baking), cooked and mashed

Butter to taste

Milk to desired consistency

Lots of shredded cheese

After making mashed potatoes as usual and adding butter and milk, place them into a baking dish. Cover the top with shredded cheese and bake at 350 degrees until the cheese melts. I must admit that the first time I made this, I was trying to make regular mashed potatoes. I used too much milk, and figured that some time in the oven would dry the potatoes out a bit. Since Mandy had been bringing cheesy mashed potatoes to our house for special occasions, I thought I would give it a try! It’s now one of the easiest and yummiest side dishes in my repertoire!

A little bread here, another vegetable there, and dinner is done!

On a side note, my son has inspired me to try to bring some formality back into my friendships. How fun would it be to throw a dinner party and actually send out cordial invitations? Gone are the days when people ate at friends’ houses three or four nights a week, and entertained once or twice a week in their own homes. With all of the demands that we place on ourselves, we find it difficult to make time for visiting with our family and friends. If we would turn off the television once in a while, I wonder if we would get bored enough to remember the important people in our lives?

A challenge: call someone important to you and invite them for dinner!